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Decision Making - Family Decision-making Processes, Authority And Status, Rules, Values, Discussion And Consensus

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of Families


Decision making is a term used to describe the process by which families make choices, determine judgments, and come to conclusions that guide behaviors. That the process is called family decision-making implies that it requires more than one member's input and agreement (Scanzoni and Polonko 1980). The family decision-making process is a communication activity—it rests on the making and expression of meaning. The communication may be explicit (as when families sit down and discuss a prospective decision) or implicit (as when families choose an option based on their past decisions or some other unspoken rationale). Families are confronted with a myriad of decisions, including the purchase of products, the selection of educational practices, the choice of recreational activities, the use of disciplinary practices, and the deployment of limited resources. Decision making is an unavoidable, daily process.

Family decision making is a process that can be filled with tension, extremely pleasant and rewarding, both, or somewhere in between. In the decision-making process, families can address the differences among members (Galvin and Brommel 2000) and negotiate their needs for closeness and independence (Baxter and Montgomery 1996). Further, as James Atkinson and Timothy Stephen (1990) observed, decision making is inextricably bound to values. In decision making "values are communicated within the family group and [they] will become part of a family's assumptive foundation as its members coordinate future action" (Atkinson and Stephen, p. 5). Thus, family decision-making spans many family goals and practices.

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